In reading Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry I ran across this quote:
We have become so performance-oriented that it is hard to see how compromised we are. Consider one small example. In many of our churches, prayers in morning services now function, in large measure, as the time to change the set in the sanctuary. The people of the congregation bow their heads and close their eyes, and when they look up a minute later, why, the singers are in place, or the drama group is ready to perform. It is all so smooth. It is also profane. Nominally we are in prayer together addressing the King of heaven, the sovereign Lord. In reality, some of us are doing that while others are rushing on tiptoes around the “stage” and others, with their eyes closed are busy wondering what new and happy configuration will confront them when it is time to take a peek.
Has the smoothness of the performance become more important to us than the fear of the Lord? Has polish, one of the modern equivalents of ancient rhetoric, displaced substance? Have professional competence and smooth showmanship become more valuable than sober reckoning over what it means to focus on Christ crucified?
— pg 38-9
There are any number of things that I could say about this quote, and any number of directions I could take these present ramblings. But the thing which stands out to me the most is that first sentence. We’ve become so compromised to the idol of performance that we cannot even see it in our own churches. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that there ought to be a stellar level of “professionalism” to the church service (in saying professionalism, I’m seeking to use the term with out the negative connotations), but how many times have I stood on stage and either turned red with embarrassment or kicked myself because I “made too much noise entering or exiting the stage (or even making some noise at the wrong time while on stage) on a Sunday morning.” The feelings I had were not because I ruined someone’s worship experience, but rather because I was not as smooth as I could have been. I had trangressed my idol of performance’s standards.
I’ll just let this stew. Maybe I’ll pick up this theme again in another post. But I think we all ought to take a long hard look at ourselves. Has this particular idol silently worked its way onto our private shines? In possible attempts to clear out other idols have we overlooked this one? Maybe nothing externally will change about our churches, but at the very least we will have investigated our own hearts and made room for God to judge our worship and not an idol.